A Taste of the Singapore Tuning Scene
Singapore. The city state known for its great views, good food, friendly people, and more recently the setting for Crazy Rich Asians - not to say there aren’t real crazy rich Asians living there, mind you. Simply go around town and you’ll see an abundance of both luxury and supercars driving about. In fact, standing along Orchard road would already treat you to an eyeful of these expensive machines. Should you be lucky you might even get a glimpse of the rarer hypercars around town… if you know where to find them.
But what about Singapore’s aftermarket scene? Sure you’ll see a newish Civic or Corolla with a decent set wheels once in awhile, but think of the last time you saw a highly coveted Japanese import in Singapore such as an Evo or an EG6? Prior to this trip, I can’t really remember if I ever saw any.
For those of you who don’t know, Singapore is very strict when it comes to modifications. Even things as simple as changing your wheels to aftermarket ones could land you in trouble with authorities. With that, you’d expect Singapore to be one of the last places to have a tuner scene.
You’d be wrong about that though.
Having been in Singapore in October, I happened to chance upon a Skyline and Silvia meet happening at the Newton Hawker Center (The place they filmed the hawker dining scene in Crazy Rich Asians; really good food and beer). While I didn’t know any of them, one of the guys in a 180SX told me that they were going for a run, and even offered me a ride. Unfortunately, I had other duties to attend to and I couldn’t join them. That isn’t the end of the story though.
Thanks to the power of social media, I got to chat with Zolene, the owner of this white Evo 9 which I saw at Newton, and managed to schedule a shoot with some of her friends the day after. Because the shoot was held last minute on a Sunday night, only a handful of people were expected to come out.
After being picked up at the hotel, we went to a quiet stretch of road just behind Marina Bay Sands, and waited for Zolene’s friends to arrive. The lack of both foot and vehicular traffic made it a great place to shoot while waiting for the rest of the convoy to arrive. Safe to say, the first car really did catch me by surprise.
While Ferrari’s and Porsches are an abundance in Singapore, oddly enough a humble EG6 Civic stands out as a rare piece. That’s what came to my mind when Ben arrived in his track-prepped EG hatch. Wide fenders, AP Racing brakes and grippy Bridgestone RE-71R tires proved this Civic meant business. Under the hood, it is ‘mostly stock’ given how modifications are illegal. Still, it didn’t stop Ben from fitting a full exhaust.
As the night went on, more and more people arrived. A stanced hawkeye WRX was one of the last cars I expected to see. I mean, stance in Singapore? I just hope he doesn’t get caught. An Evo X, Audi A6, and an FD2 Civic were the last to arrive. Honestly, I was craving to see more. But given the circumstances, I’m already thankful for getting the chance to see a slice of the car scene in the country.
One thing I noticed about Singapore is that the country seems to sleep early. That or it was because it was a Sunday night/early Monday morning. At around 2 to 3 AM, the roads were already quiet with almost no cars driving around. This made it the perfect time to go for a run and shoot rollers.
I have to say, it is a completely different experience going for a late night run in Singapore. Unlike in the Philippines where the police are “more lenient” at night, it isn’t quite the same in SG considering how strict they are with almost everything. Well that’s what I thought at the back of my head at the time. But the guys seem to know what they’re doing already, and eventually I got to relax and enjoy it. It also gave me a view of Singapore that no other tourist could ever see. I didn’t think i’d see buildings around town go by in a blur after all.
The following day I caught up with Zolene and got to see some of the rarer cars in the area including a Golf R and an Evo 9 MR. The one that really piqued my interest though was the Evo Wagon. Considering there were only 2500 of these sold in Japan, seeing one in Singapore was quite a treat.
Sadly, I never got to see the rest of Singapore’s larger tuner scene. But, this small dip into it alone was more than enough to get me hooked. Hopefully, I get to see more the next time I go back.
Special thanks to Zolene, Ben, and the rest of the people who came out that night! I hope to see you guys again soon.
Words and Photos by Jose Altoveros